The Tampa Bay Lightning are set to receive a late Christmas gift as winger Brett Connolly returns from Team Canada’s World Junior Championship squad to join his NHL team for tonight’s game in Montreal. The 19-year-old was able to score five goals in six games for the Canadians in the prestigious under-20 tournament over the last two weeks.
The player the Lightning are getting back should be a more mature player more than one area. Coaches for Team Canada asked the talented sniper to play with a physical edge while taking a leadership position with the team. He proudly wore the “A” and was one of Canada’s better players throughout the tournament.
The performance wasn’t lost on Lightning head coach Guy Boucher—specifically the leadership Connolly showed in Canada’s exciting 6-5 loss to Russia. “I thought he showed incredible character,” Boucher said. “I was told that when it was 6-1, he was one of the first guys to stand up and say it wasn’t over, and we know what happened after.”
“He scored in almost every game he played, but what I liked was his drive and dedication to doing the details of a winner and that’s what we’re asking of him,” the Lightning coach continued. “Coming back, we don’t want to change him or put pressure on him. Right now, he’ll replace (J.T.) Wyman, because he’s a right-hander and he’s got speed like him.”
If the Lightning get a player back who is a better teammate in the locker room and a more physical presence on the ice, then the decision to release Connolly to Team Canada will prove to be a wise one. So far so good.
Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their World Cup semifinal game.
Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.
It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.
If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever
The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.
Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury
The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.
On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.
“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”
It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.
The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.
Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.
Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.
After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.
Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take
Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.
The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.
General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.
Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.